Secret Garden: Monet Comes to Vancouver

When was the last time you visited an art gallery or museum? Took in a cultural experience? Like hearing your favourite musician live transcends hearing a recording, the opportunity to view art in person goes beyond viewing it online or in a book.

The name Monet is synonymous with art for many, and more specifically Impressionist Art. It’s hard to imagine a world without his iconic water lilies paintings, but there is more to the works of Monet than many are familiar with. From June 22- October 1 this year, The Vancouver Art Gallery, in collaboration with the Musee Marmottan Monet, presents Claude Monet’s Secret Garden, a selection of 38 paintings produced by the artist at his home in Giverny, France, spanning his 60- year career and includes his final piece, Les Roses produced in 1925/ 26.

What makes this collection of works interesting- beyond the simple fact that it’s a chance to witness Monet’s work in person- is that these are all pieces from Monet’s personal collection, works he chose not to sell (the Musee Marmottan Monet is home to the largest collection of Monet’s works and is where these pieces usually reside). The paintings on display range from works produced in his early career, before arriving at his home in Giverny, through to the end of his career, when he produced the infamous water lily paintings, among others featuring his beloved gardens.

  While we may have an appreciation for his work now, at the time he produced many of his famous pieces- including those featuring the infamous water lilies- no other artists of his time were producing works that depicted reflection the way he did (Monet only sold one of his water lilies paintings during his lifetime). This is a good reminder that it isn’t always just the painting itself that has to be considered to appreciate it, but also the period in which it was produced, what was common practice/ accepted at the time, and even the style/ focus of the work. All of these are factors that can help us understand why a specific artist and works of art are significant, why art goes beyond just being a pretty picture. 

  Monet’s work may be appreciated by many around the world now, but at the time his work was revolutionary. In case you need any more convincing to visit the Monet exhibit, here are a few more facts about the artist himself and why his pieces have gained the fame they have:

  • The focus of his paintings was light itself and how it behaved (such as at different times of day, on snow, on water, etc)

  • Because Monet wanted to capture the light at a certain time of day in outdoor settings, he had to work quickly, and his brushstrokes are clearly visible
  • By the 1880’s Monet came to the belief that one canvas wasn’t enough to capture what he wanted to convey (ie the changing light), so he would produce similar works featuring the same landscape, etc that demonstrated the change in light and how it behaved (see the two paintings below as examples)

  • His pieces feature clear/ bright colours- the colours of his paintings had not been seen before, as Monet chose to paint outside, rather than inside by candlelight (sand can be found in the paint of some of his pieces from painting outside)
  • No other artist of his time depicted reflection the way Monet did (like that seen in his water lilies and other works)- these paintings don’t have a horizon, instead it’s implied by the reflection in the water
  • In 1883 Monet and his family moved to a 90- acre property where he cultivated gardens and water gardens- his gardens are featured in 250 of his paintings, including wisteria, roses, willow trees, and the famous water lilies

  • His water lilies pieces were not shown to the public during his lifetime as he didn’t want to have to explain them to a contemporary public who didn’t understand his work
  • The invention of the train and train bridge were critical to Impressionist period artists as it allowed them to travel around France and paint in locations previously challenging to visit
  • For outdoor paintings, Monet would use smaller canvases as they were more practical to paint on to capture the light at the time he was painting; for large- scale pieces like the water lilies, Monet constructed a large studio to work indoors
  • Towards the end of his career, his pieces bordered more on an abstract style of painting (like those seen more after WW2)

If you are looking for activities to do this Summer, a visit to the Monet exhibit won’t disappoint. If anything it’s a bit of a surreal experience to be in the presence of such art, to see the individual brushstrokes up close. Whether you follow art closely or just have a general interest, this is an opportunity to witness works by an iconic artist s in person and enjoy a cultural experience. Details about the Claude Monet’s Secret Garden exhibit below.

Exhibit Details:

Runs from June 22- October 1, 2017

Location: Vancouver Art Gallery

Tickets: Adult- $24 | Senior (65+)- $20 | Kids 6- 12- $6.50 |

Kids 5 & under- Free

Enjoy visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery by donation on Tuesday evenings from 5- 9pm

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